According to the New York Times, New York University, the alma mater of Slant Magazine’s publishers, is proposing to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse, which is adjacent to Washington Square Park, the heart of NYU’s “campus.” A stable and bottling plant before being turned into a theater in 1918 by the Provincetown Players (among them, Eugene O’Neill), the playhouse was where Bette Davis made her New York stage debut at the start of the Great Depression. NYU has a long tradition of swallowing up real estate and putting profit before culture and community: Some of the school’s most recent acquisitions include the decades-old concert hall and nightclub Palladium, which was torn down and then courteously christened “Palladium Hall Dormitory,” and the Bottom Line, one of the very first concert venues I went to when I moved to New York 10 years ago, which was put out of business after NYU refused to agree to a reasonable payment plan for the back rent that was owed to them (which amounted to little more than one student’s tuition over the course of four years). Then, of course, there’s that monstrosity of a student center that was erected shortly after I graduated, which didn’t result in the destruction of any landmark building but, with its gigantic staircase and looming shadow, sticks out amidst the tasteful turn-of-the-century Greenwich Village architecture like the obscene monument of bureaucracy that it is. It’s almost as bad as that glass-shaft eyesore on Astor Place that, according to its advertisements, promised to be “provocative!” and “undulating!” and which now houses a Chase Manhattan bank (the “Mercedes-Benz of banks,” I was told by a customer service agent when I closed my account there several years ago) on its ground floor. But I digress. In the Times article, the architect for the new building claims that his design “looks more similar to what was there [originally] than when it was renovated in the 1940s.” Oh, well in that case, bring me a bulldozer!
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.